Israel's Comptroller’s Report: a Leftist polemic?

Tuvia Brodie,

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Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

(Last updated: March 3, 2017)

On Tuesday, February 28, 2017, Israel’s State Comptroller, Joseph Shapira, released a 200+ page Report that purports to assess Israel’s political and military leaders’ conduct during the 2014 Gaza/Hamas War. The time period studied begins with June, 2017, when three Jewish teenagers were kidnapped in Israel and murdered by Hamas operatives. Three weeks later, early July, the war began. The war ended near the close of August, 2017.

This Report is supposed to ev‎aluate how the government’s inner security Cabinet and senior military leaders handled the 2014 war. But from the pages that have been released to the public, the Report didn’t exactly do that. What we see is flawed--and dangerously political.

The first of two major problems with the Report that’s been published is that it appears to have covered only some aspects of the war. It isn’t comprehensive. It’s selective.

Selective ev‎aluations aren’t usually objective. They’re usually slanted.

This Report is slanted. What we’ve seen of the Report overemphasizes Hamas terror tunnels and ignores the performance of IDF infantry units during urban fire-fights. It ignores how Israel’s armored units performed during urban fighting. It ignores how Israel’s military lawyers performed as they monitored IDF command staff who created daily fighting orders. It ignores the extent to which those lawyers might have affected the outcome of the war--or caused additional IDF casualties. It ignored how well the IDF executed its house-to-house combat strategy.

The Report offers a scathing criticism of Israel’s leadership—particularly Netanyahu—over a perceived failure to deal effectively with those Hamas tunnels (above). Did the Report ignore or skimp over successful aspects of the war in order to enhance the supposed importance of that ‘failure’? It certainly looks that way.

Ideally, the Report's purpose is to help Israel pinpoint how better to prepare for its next war. Since Israel’s wars have seemed to require an increasing amount of urban fighting against an enemy who dresses as civilians and hides behind civilians, it’s important to gauge how all of Israel’s military units handled their fighting assignments in this war. But the performance of most of those units gets little if any attention in this Report.

If the Report we saw was indeed the Report that was written, it failed. It didn’t look at the entire fighting machine Israel brought to the war. How can it recommend meaningful changes with so much ignored?

The second—and perhaps more troubling—flaw is ideological. The Report reveals how Leftist thinking has penetrated to the highest level of IDF leadership. That influence prompted the IDF to push Israel's political leadership in the wrong direction.

In Israel, Leftists believe that peace with Hamas is possible. But Israel’s leaders, the Left claims, don’t try hard enough (“No Partner for Peace in Israel”, haaretz, December 29, 2013). This mantra was repeated in this Report in three ways. The Report seems to claim: (1) in the two years leading up to the war, Israel failed to work hard enough to prevent it (a Leftist argument); (2) Israel failed to address a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza (a Leftist assertion);  and (3) Israel failed to seek diplomatic options that could have stabilized the situation in Gaza in the months before the war (Barak Ravid, “Israel's Gaza War Failure Was First and Foremost a Diplomatic One”, haaretz, February 28, 2017).

Then-Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon carried the Leftist argument to the inner security Cabinet.  On three separate occasions in the Report, Comptroller Shapira quoted (at least) Yaalon saying it's possible that the war could have been avoided if Israel had addressed the existing distress within the Gaza strip (Barak Ravid, Gili Cohen, “Gaza War: 11 Key Headlines From Scathing Report Rattling Israel's Politicians and Military”, haaretz, February 28, 2017).

But the Left goes astray. Ya’alon and some of his Generals went astray. That war was not initiated because Israel failed to fix Gaza’s humanitarian issues—or failed to seek diplomatic options, or failed to prevent the war.

There were no diplomatic options for Israel to pursue. Hamas rejects all diplomacy. It says so in its Charter.

There was also no way to prevent the war because that war wasn’t started by reasonable men—the kind for whom diplomacy is meaningful. It was started by a religiously fanatical Hamas as a 'next-scheduled' military attack against the ‘infidel’ Jewish state. There was no way Israel could prevent such war through Leftist thinking. Hamas isn’t interested in diplomacy. It wants the destruction of the Jewish state.

This is the Left's mistake. It doesn't understand Hamas.

Neither, it seems, did IDF leadership. To suggest that Israel was so responsible for a Gazan humanitarian crisis that it provoked war is more a Leftist article of faith than a reasoned conclusion. For example, there are at least five reasons Gazans have not solved their reconstruction--and its attendant humanitarian--crisis. Israel represents only one of those five reasons (Mitchell Hochberg, “The Five Factors Slowing Gaza Reconstruction”, washingtoninstitute, no. 31, February 2016).

This Israel-is-one-of-five-reasons-for-the-Gaza-humanitarian-crisis clearly suggests that Israel is not solely responsible for solving those problems—and is not responsible in any major way for those problems.

But IDF leadership thought so. It still does: the Left's influence taints the entire IDF hierarchy.

Hamas, not Israel, was and is the greatest cause of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza (Evelyn Gordon, “How Hamas Deliberately Created a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza”, evelyncgordon, August 6, 2014). Anyone who looks at Gaza with an objective eye can see that. Leftists--and IDF leaders--cannot.

If Hamas is passionate about going to war with Israel, Israel cannot prevent war. To suggest otherwise is to deny reality.

Ya’alon ignored reality. Comptroller Shapira seems also to have ignored reality when he suggests that Israel could have prevented war or used diplomacy to help Gaza (Ravid, ibid).

So long as the IDF--and those who ev‎aluate the IDF--embrace a Leftist ideology, Israel will have trouble fighting Hamas and/or the Palestinian Authority. A Left-influenced ev‎aluation will never address this underlying military flaw.

The result is, with Leftist thinking informing military decisions, Israel loses. It will never win against its Islamic adversaries.

This Report didn't touch this issue. It didn't even see it.

So, did this Report serve any real purpose? Yes, it did. You can see that purpose in Israel’s headlines:

-Gil Hoffman, Yonah Jeremy Bob, “Ya’alon: Comptroller’s Gaza war report political”, jerusalempost, February 28, 2017;

-Mazal Mualem, “How Israel’s Gaza War report became a political battlefield”, al-monitor, February 28, 2017;

-Gil Hoffman, “Analysis: Netanyahu’s mantle as Mr. Security tarnished”, jerusalempost, February 28, 2017;

-Yonah Jeremy Bob, “Special report: Netanyahu and the defense establishment’s failures in the 2014 Gaza war”, jerusalempost, February 28, 2017;

-Sue Surkes, “Herzog: Netanyahu should resign over scathing Gaza war report”, timesofisrael, February 28, 2017.

The Report the public has seen smells of politics at its worst and Leftist thinking at its best. Neither politics nor Leftism will help Israel stand strong. Both weaken Israel.

If this Report is to have any effect, IDF leadership ranks need to be cleaned out. Comptroller Shapira, meanwhile, should be censured.